Treasures From the Original

Can the Meaning of Vital Doctrine Hinge on a Single Word?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Three examples, all involving fundamental doctrines, underscore just how vital this truth is.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part one of a series.

In this era of saturation postmodernism, believers must always remember that God the Holy Spirit chose the words of Scripture with the utmost precision and meticulous purpose.

Every word of Scripture - even the tenses of verbs, and the use of the singular versus the plural - is absolutely vital in the revelation of the eternal plan of God. Jesus proclaimed that "not one jot or tittle" of Scripture would remain unfulfilled (Matthew 5:18, Luke 16:17). The "jot" (Hebrew yod, Greek iota) was the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The "tittle" was a tiny stroke added to letters of the Hebrew alphabet to indicate specific meaning in a word in context. God's purpose and precision in the penning of Scripture extends even to these minutest details.

In this brief series we shall examine three examples, all involving fundamental doctrines, that underscore just how vital this truth is. We begin with Jesus' declaration of the truth of the resurrection of the dead in response to the unbelief of a major sect of the Jewish religious leaders - the theological liberals of their day.

"I Am" - Not "I Was"

In Matthew chapter 22, we read one of the many accounts in which the unbelieving Jewish leaders tried to trick Jesus into making a statement they could disprove:

The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her."

Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob' ? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. (Matthew 22:23-33)

As always, these unbelievers failed to trap Jesus. He refuted the Sadducees' teaching that there is no bodily resurrection of the dead by pointing them to Scripture, specifically Exodus 3:6. There Jehovah declared to Moses, "I am [not "I was"] the God of Abraham." The present tense of the verb asserted that Jehovah was still Abraham's God at the time of Moses, even though Abraham had been dead for over four hundred years. Jesus' assertion of one of the most fundamental doctrines of Scripture - the resurrection of the dead - hinged not merely on the choice of a word, but on the very tense of that word!

"That Every Mouth May Be Stopped"

Thus we read in the next verse of Matthew 22 that Jesus "silenced the Sadducees." This was the vital purpose of the Scriptures that Jesus quoted to them:

Now we know that whatever the law [the Old Testament Scriptures] says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Romans 3:19)

Dear reader, have the Scriptures brought you into a proper, submissive silence before the absolute and unique authority of God's inspired, infallible, inerrant Word? Do you recognize that the Bible is unique among all books; that it is the only supernatural book, every word having been given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:19-21)? Do you understand that you have no right to naysay or to argue against even a single letter or fragment of it?

May the Lord stop our sinful mouths, and may we acknowledge our position as fallible, wretched sinners before the holy, omniscient God of the universe. May we rejoice in the great salvation that He, in loving wisdom, has provided for all who will come to Him in repentance and faith, and in the absolute certainty of the coming glorious resurrection of believers in Christ.

And if you are not trusting in Christ, do you recognize that you also will be raised from the dead - but that it will be for the purpose of your final judgment and condemnation to Hell? Dear friend, if this is your case, I urge you to hear and heed the words of the Lord:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:24-29)

In the next chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus also declared what it will mean in that day to "have done good" -

Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him. Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." (John 6:27-29)

Next: A Single Word Declares the Deity of Christ


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